I have now completed week five of the Peak performance: A mental conditioning program and have seen considerable changes in my training habits already. I make less excuses now.
I get on with what I always knew needed to be done but had previously been avoiding. I am no longer waiting for a miracle quick-fix solution. I am regularly incorporating resistance work into my training and focusing on strengthening my core. I feel stronger and am running with more vitality. I am also taking on new challenges. In short, I am willing to take action; I’m starting to accept rather than avoid discomfort. Sports Psychologist Michael Inglis tells us that the next step is commitment.
This week we started our session by discussing the difference between motivation and commitment. Motivation, he tells us, is the desire for something, such as my desire to get quicker at my running. Most people are motivated to perform better in various domains of their lives. However, it takes commitment – in particular commitment to actions that are necessary for us to perform better – to reach peak performance. I can see how this would work with quitting smoking. A lot of people are motivated to quit smoking; fewer people are actually committed to it. Inglis tells us that in general few people are truly committed. Prior to starting this program, I definitely lacked commitment. I am undergoing a transformation though and this week Inglis pushed me to fully commit to my performance values.
One of my values that I hadn’t spent much time reflecting on up until now was gratitude. It was during a mindfulness activity in week four that I saw how this could relate to performance. For years I have been appallingly slack at stretching. I would run and make excuses to myself that I am too busy to stretch. In class, Inglis led us in a mindful stretching activity. We focused on holding the stretch and breathing mindfully into the muscle we were working on. The activity combatted the usual monotony I feel when stretching. Inglis reminded us that it is important to give back to our bodies after punishing them with our training routines. I have since been mindfully stretching after my runs. After not stretching in months, this is quite a change to my training habits. On reflection, I see this as a gratitude practice in my routine; gratitude towards my body and what it enables me to do. In the context of performance, this is an example of the value of gratitude driving my behaviour. But Inglis doesn’t just want us to identify our values and how they drive behaviour, he wants us to write short and long term goals for committing to our performance values.
My short term goal around gratitude is to express gratitude to my body after each workout. I will do this by allowing enough time to stretch my whole body mindfully. My long term goal is incorporate this gratitude in more domains, such as in the food choices I make and how much rest I get. Thinking about these goals I wrote that I will notice what my body is doing well during performance (such as running powerfully uphill) and journal about what I identify after my runs. As homework I have completed this goal-setting activity for all of my values. For curiosity my goal is to be able to find new ways to exploit by body’s potential in pursuit of speed. For creativity my goal is to play with confidence – to try skills without fear of failure – so that I can push the limits of what I can currently do. For compassion my goal is to practice self-kindness when I make mistakes or hit barriers, such as through injury or illness. For collaboration my goal is to take on new team challenges. I accepted a new challenge recently and will soon begin a new adventure in my performance.
After five weeks of mental conditioning by brain is buzzing with new information. The most noticeable difference though, it that I hardly recognise myself. My habits are like those of someone from a parallel universe. It’s me, but with more self-regulation and greater self-awareness. I feel like anything is possible, but most importantly, I’m excited by my training again. I’m looking forward to seeing what Inglis has in store for us in our last class.